Jagannatha, an exhibition of Pattachitra art curated by Suguna Swamy, aims to popularise the craft
The art of Pattachitra is not new to us. But in truth, much of what we’ve seen till date are hacks according to Suguna Swamy, former creative director of O&M and a volunteer with the Crafts Council of India (CCI). In a bid to support the Odisha-based scroll painting art, she is organising Jagannatha, an exhibition featuring works by 13 artists—many of whom are National Award and Lalit Kala Akademi Award winners. “CCI has done quite a bit of work—supported artists and sent them abroad for shows—but it’s still few and far in between,” begins Swamy, explaining that there is a sense of disillusionment among them. “So we thought we’d work with some of them, get them to do patas exclusively for us, and prove that their art can do well and that there is money to be made,” she says.
Making a mark
Swamy got involved with Pattachitra artists when she went to Odisha as part of CCI’s education programme, Educate to Sustain, which helps children get a good education while encouraging them to practise their craft after hours. “I realised that the young looked down on craft as a lowly profession, but at the same time were disillusioned by the hack jobs they had landed at call centres and the like. If they knew their trade and their craft, then with simple mathematics and book keeping, they would be able to run a business with more confidence,” Swamy informs, adding that a few youngsters participating in her exhibition have proved this. “They are savvy, putting their work online and encouraging others to follow,” she beams.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Swamy, city-based art collector Ashwin Subramaniyam and Vinnyasa Gallery. The work, which was initiated in February, has resulted in 30 wall pieces and several smaller rolls. “While many of them are traditional—featuring Radha-Krishna and Jagannatha, or sensuous themes such as raas leela—others are quite secular like the one featuring exquisite line drawings of musical instruments and another charting the six seasons,” says Swamy, who wants to elevate it to the status of an art and preserve its integrity. “News of the exhibition is already spreading and I am getting requests to take it to cities like Mumbai,” she says. Up next, she wants to do something similar with the stone carvers and tribal jewellery makers she has come across while in Odisha.
Rs.12,000 onwards. From January 2-12 at the Vinnyasa Premier Art Gallery. Details: 24982515
—Surya Praphulla Kumar